Protecting Water Quality Through Resourceful Teamwork
The early August water emergency in the Toledo area has brought attention to the way local experts protect water quality in this region. TMACOG’s four-person Environmental Planning staff is part of the region’s web of professionals who work full-time to research and address water quality issues.
TMACOG does not manage any water treatment plants or clean up chemical spills. The staff of the Environmental Planning department does facilitate coordination between waste water treatment facilities through the Areawide Water Quality Management Plan (the 208 Plan), shows municipal employees how to prevent and respond to spills, and identifies and expedites projects that improve water quality in watersheds throughout the region. All staff efforts are directed toward protecting and improving water quality in rivers and ultimately in Lake Erie.
The Environmental Planning department includes Kurt Erichsen, P.E., vice president; Kari Gerwin, stormwater planner; Matt Horvat, Maumee River coordinator, and Joy Minarcin, department secretary. As they work on issues of water quality over a six-county area and in several watersheds, they must also find ways to fund their work and find creative ways to support the work of TMACOG members. Many projects are funded through state and federal grants. Most grants are project-limited and they usually do not pay for much TMACOG staff time.
Sometimes TMACOG is successful in getting the type of grant that allows staff to put their expertise directly to work on practical problems that they have identified.
Stormwater Planner Kari Gerwin spends most of her time helping jurisdictions meet regulations for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. She works with officials who are responsible for producing Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans and she can provide annually required training. She reviews a city’s or county’s standard operating procedures and makes recommendations. That work is paid for through Stormwater Coalition dues. When TMACOG secured an Ohio EPA grant for water quality planning, Gerwin developed a resource that tells communities in urbanized areas of the Swan Creek watershed what steps they can take to reduce phosphorus loading. “One great thing about this project,” said Gerwin, “is that most of the communities are members of TMACOG and the Stormwater Coalition. Our staff will be able to provide ongoing support as they implement strategies we outlined.”
Using the same grant sources, Maumee River Coordinator Matt Horvat recently completed a training program with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. Horvat said, “They had the personnel and the data, they just needed a little training on how to put Geographic Information Systems to work for them. Now they organize and speed up their field work with interactive GIS maps.” Registered Sanitarian Brandon Tester said that the training made data more accessible and useful. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what the system can do for us,” Tester said. He can now overlay the 208 Plan boundaries on his street maps. He can identify property that falls in critical sewage areas and see where lots are close enough to tie into a sewer line. He can identify the oldest systems in the area and ensure that they are inspected.
Vice President Kurt Erichsen is a 30-year veteran of TMACOG and manages the department. He takes leadership of the Areawide Water Quality Management Plan (the 208 Plan), the Portage River Basin Council, and the Wolf Creek Committee. He also leads the Natural Resources Assistance Counsel which evaluates applications for Clean Ohio Funds in Lucas County. Erichsen serves on the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology which provides recommendations on the federal level. “Kurt is recognized not only in this region but also at the state level with his experience and knowledge,” said Jerry Greiner, president of Northwestern Water & Sewer District. Greiner added, “The region has greatly benefitted by Kurt’s direction in his role with TMACOG as they have led these discussions for over 20 years.”
Registered Sanitarian Brandon Tester made a presentation to the
Stormwater Coalition on the improved GIS system at the Toledo-Lucas
County Health Department that was made possible through a grant from
the Ohio EPA.
Kari Gerwin, TMACOG stormwater planner, explained how pollution reduction
targets were determined for a project she completed in the Swan Creek
watershed. Her work was made possible through the same Ohio EPA